The Women’s Resource and Action Center’s (WRAC) social justice volunteer program, The WRACtivists, completed another active year in 2017-18. The program is designed following the Midwest Academy’s model for advancing the struggle for social, economic, and racial justice. Originally called IWIS, or Iowa Women Initiating Social Change, the program name was changed 7 years ago to reflect the changing make-up of the WRAC volunteer community. Each year between 30 and 40 volunteers train to become WRACtivists, working on projects throughout the fall and spring, which they choose as a group early in the semester or take on as issues arise throughout the year. About their experience as a WRACtivist, recent Iowa grad Ellen Kuehnle says, “being a a WRACtivist taught me how to plan and implement a campaign, how to organize and work with allies in the community, and gave me a family on campus.”
The third of the approaches to social change is to work at the policy level, and the WRACtivists got vital experience working on several policy issues in the past year. They met in an advisory capacity on several occasions with Monique DiCarlo, the Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator for the University of Iowa, to share their insight and opinions related to the 2017 Climate Survey and the recommendations which were made based on the data collected from that survey. They saw first hand how policy is created at a complex institution like the University of Iowa and were able to positively influence the process from the viewpoint of the people most impacted by that policy, UI students.
“I knew social justice was what I was most passionate about when I came to college, and WRAC gave me opportunities that I didn’t have in high school…I know now that no matter where I go after graduation, I will volunteer.”
The students who are WRACtivists gain important skills and insight working on their projects, both about issues and about themselves. Not every group gets a “win,” though WRACtivists have had a role in changing several university policies and a city law, butnonetheless they leave their mark on WRAC and the UI community. Marisa Gordinier, a WRACtivist and UI grad who has worked with WRACtivists on a policy-level project aimed at making taxis safer, says, “I knew social justice was what I was most passionate about when I came to college, and WRAC gave me opportunities that I didn’t have in high school…I know now that no matter where I go after graduation, I will volunteer.”